For early-stage entrepreneurs, help from experienced entrepreneurs is essential. Especially international people, who would like to establish a business in Finland, need help and support. They may need advice on how to run a business in Finland, information about the business environment or what technical and legal questions to consider and how to market and meet customers. Help is required for many kinds of issues.
Our MEGE-project did not include mentoring in the original project plan. The idea to start mentoring arose in a discussion within the project group soon after the project began. It was apparent that mentoring was a missing piece in the service portfolio for international experts.
A long mentoring process was not ideal, we based the MEGE Mentor Day on the Flash-mentoring model. This model is very flexible as it is easy to organize and it does not require participants to commit on long-term. Flash-mentoring is a one-time mentoring meeting, where the mentee has a specific problem that fits well into the mentor´s expertise area. The model also creates opportunities to continue the mentoring process between mentor and mentee, if the interest remains.
The MEGE Mentor Day lasts one day, and it runs about once a month during the academic year. In one day, the mentee meets with four seasoned mentors with varied expertise in business and entrepreneurship. The day starts with the mentee’s pitch and it ends with the sharing of experiences and giving feedback on how to develop further the mentoring.
I have had the opportunity to take part in the MEGE mentoring meetings as an observer and wish to share my findings in this blog. My data consists of observation, background information as well as mentoring literature and discussions with mentors and mentees.
Below, I have summarized features that make mentoring excellent:
- prepare for the situation; take seriously the opportunity of mentoring and make sure that your mentor gets the business presentation beforehand
- ponder what advice you would like to receive; crystallize the main problem to be solved
- be ready to share thoughts and be open to new angles but still believe in your own business
- accept, that stepping outside your comfort zone is an opportunity to learn
- orientate yourself to the mentee´s case beforehand
- be willing to share time, expertise and contacts
- sharpen your ability to read the situation of the mentee
- listen to the mentee´s story by asking questions, open new angles and give advice that meet the mentee´s need
- help to increase the mentee’s entrepreneurial mindset
It is clear that mentoring is helpful in business development. Discussions with a mentor helps the mentee to crystallize the business idea and to find the right direction. Receiving advice can at times be very demanding as it often is both opposing and challenging. Repetition of a business idea, over and again, becomes at times very tiring – even though it clears up a mentee´s thoughts and makes it possible to view things from many angles and thus, helps to make better decisions.
The atmosphere at the mentoring meetings has been very positive, open, friendly, and relaxed. Highly experienced mentors have been available for the mentees and willing to help them in their business. They have given their time and shared their knowledge and skills. On top of all this, mentors have helped mentees to connect with the right people by making their networks available.
MEGE is a joint project between Haaga-Helia, Aalto University, Business College Helsinki, and Shortcut, where the aim is to remove barriers for international professionals to establish and acquire a business in the Helsinki region. Helsinki-Uusimaa regional council (Uudenmaan liitto) and Structural fund (EAKR) from the Talentboost –program is funding the project.